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Showing posts from September, 2008

Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider - Part 2

With more and more managed service providers (MSPs) entering the market, your choices are expanding. If you choose the wrong one, however, you might wind up with more challenges than benefits. How do you know? According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications , it’s often as simple as asking. In part one of this post , we covered three of the top five questions to ask a managed service provider: How long has an MSP been in business? What kind of support does the MSP offer? And what kind of redundancy does the MSP offer? Today we’ll cover the remaining two questions that Matt recommends you ask, and they’re arguably the two most important: What quality of service does the MSP provide? This is probably the most important question, of course. You’ll learn quite a bit about an MSP’s service quality when you check its references. Be sure to ask what happens when there are issues. Does the MSP respond quickly and take ownership of the problem? Another key indicator is the MSP’s service level

Can Retailers Respond to Changing Corporate Needs?

Joe Panettieri did a great job describing the IT management and business implications of the growing dispersion of today's workforce in his post "Managed Services: Safe at Home" . This trend is not only creating new challenges that are driving greater corporate interests in managed services, it is also attracting a broadening array of managed service providers (MSPs) to satisfy businesses' escalating needs. The office supply retailers are increasingly nibbling around the edges of the IT services market. The most obvious example is Best Buy's Geek Squad which has primarily served the consumer needs of the residential market, but is also responding to the needs of the small office/home office (SOHO) market which Joe described in his post. The latest example of this trend is the recent news that Staples is going to deliver a portfolio of IT services to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). These services are going to center around the acquisition Staples made in la

Managed Services: Safe At Home

As more businesses allow employees to work from home, a new IT challenge -- and opportunity -- arises. It's impossible for employers to offer on-site, full-time tech support to all of their stay-at-home workers. But the rise of managed services -- including remote monitoring and pro-active administration -- can bring order to these highly distributed workplaces. The trend toward telecommuting is undeniable. More than 40 percent of American and Canadian companies let their employees telework, according to WorldatWork , a global HR association. As energy prices continue to fluctuate and businesses increasingly focus on environmental issues, the march toward telecommuting will surely accelerate. Home Networks Become Complex As a small business owner myself, my home office includes a network with multiple nodes -- three PCs running a mix of Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP; and my trusted MacBook Pro running Max OS X. Now, multiply that IT complexity across hundreds of home offices and you&

Small Community Banks, Big Managed Service Benefits

Community banks have attracted new customers by offering a truly personal banking experience that their larger rivals can't match, and by maintaining close ties to local communities. However, all bank customers are demanding Business Technology driven services that many community banks simply can't provide with their current infrastructures. The lack of the latest technology can make migrating to new services prohibitively complex and expensive. Community banks have depended on multiple providers for their voice and data networks. These banks found that they were paying substantially more for their network connections than larger institutions. Moreover, having to deal with multiple providers can strain the smaller bank's modest IT staff. Implementing and operating a new converged voice/data/video IP network would overwhelm an IT team that usually handles simple tasks. In addition, deploying a new IP network could negatively impact the community bank's operating budget.

Small Businesses: Your TelePresence Room Is Ready

Conventional wisdom says TelePresence -- the next-generation video conferencing technology -- is best positioned for enterprise customers with big IT budgets. But through affordable managed services, small businesses are poised to join the TelePresence party. Fact is, TelePresence can benefit small businesses in many ways. It can allow entrepreneurs to meet virtually with business partners, customers, investors and even job candidates scattered across the globe -- without booking expensive business trips or depending on impersonal conference calls. TelePresence creates a virtual environment where all participants feel as if they're seated in a single executive conference room. You can read each person's body language. You can maintain eye contact. And you can focus on deep discussions. Only for Big Enterprises? Now, for the challenge: The TelePresence industry is gaining momentum within large enterprises that want to improve virtual communications with customers, board members

The Quest for IT Service Management Excellence

In the highly-charged economic environment facing organizations today, competition is fierce and any competitive advantage needs to be identified and maximized to ensure survival. Increasingly Business Technology service providers, whether internal or external, are reaching out to the growing discipline of IT Service Management (ITSM), particularly as expressed in the "IT Infrastructure Library" or "ITIL (®)" to provide the critical competencies needed to create that competitive advantage for their organization. ITIL recognizes the need for IT departments to think of themselves as Service Providers to their business, providing technology-based services that are critical to the mission of the larger organization. In support of this mission they must, like their own suppliers in turn, meet challenges such as: Providing services that are selected and positioned correctly for their internal "market" Delivering real value to the business to ensure satisfaction

Questions to Ask a Managed Service Provider

The benefits of outsourcing make a simple and strong case, and more organizations are choosing to do so. As a natural result, more and more companies are entering the managed services provider (MSP) market. According to Matt Cowall at Appia Communications , some of them are well-qualified; others are simply trying to take advantage of a market opportunity. Price is important, but it's not the only consideration, and the benefits of using an MSP can quickly evaporate if you choose the wrong one. Matt recommends five key questions to ask before selecting an MSP. We'll discuss three of them today. How long has an MSP been in business? As in any business, there's an art and science to offering managed services. One obvious way to separate the experienced MSPs from the wannabes is to ask how long they've been in business. If they've been operational for some time, they probably will have already addressed any service delivery issues they may have experienced in the begin

Small Businesses: Good IT Investments for a Bad Economy

My brother is chief operating officer for a real estate company in Manhattan. He's running a small business facing some very familiar challenges: Rising energy prices, unpredictable operating costs, and tenants who are facing rising unemployment. In addition to those first-hand business challenges, people like him worry about Wall Street's financial mess spilling over into Main Street USA. The flood of bad financial news from AIG, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch will force small business owners to rethink their financial bets in the months ahead. Some entrepreneurs may wind up cutting their IT budgets in order to conserve cash. Fact is, they don't want surprise bills for emergency server repairs or break-fix services. A Smarter Strategy Instead of saying no to new technology investments, my brother is pursuing a far wiser IT strategy. He's reaching out to so-called managed service providers (MSPs). Generally speaking, MSPs charge

Gaining the Freedom to Fuel BT Innovation

Without a doubt, the reason why most business decision makers consider an out-tasked solution -- based upon a managed service offering -- is still primarily the need for cost-reduction. Clearly, that's a valid motivation for any business leader. But, it's only a part of the inherent benefit that can be attained by choosing to play this particular game with a very different set of rules. Ask yourself, if your IT organization can rarely find the time to invest in meaningful business innovation activity, then shouldn't you consider the common reasons why -- and seek out the proven methods to proactively apply an alternative approach? Innovation stuck in a holding pattern According to a Forrester Research market assessment , a fundamental "lack of time available to invest in innovation" is one of the main reasons given by CIOs and their staff to explain why they're unable to participate in substantive new business impact activity. In reality, they're consumed

How to Enable the IT to BT Transformation

According to Forrester Research , as technology becomes integral to all types of commercial offerings and associated business strategy, the traditional model of IT as an independent and monolithic entity is clearly obsolete. A proven Business Technology (BT) model will replace IT's legacy orientation -- with a focus on providing business value through process-governed services, measured in business-relevant terms. Forrester believes that all business professionals should understand what is driving the shift from traditional IT -- as well as the key challenges around strategy, process, and culture when implementing BT practices. So, how do you avoid the mistakes of the past, and pro-actively transform your IT capability to address today's apparent challenges? Forrester offers three key suggestions. Deliver services and value, not hardware and software IT's traditional focus on system components means that it has neglected to maximize business-relevant services for its intern

Erasing the Line Between Business and Technology

During a recent CIO seminar I hosted in San Francisco, some attendees told me how they were trying to blur the line between business and technology. Other attendees told me they wanted to "close the gap" between business and technology. To me, business and technology are already one and the same. Business Technology (BT) is the next evolution of Information Technology (IT). Many technology bloggers write about information, applications, data, voice or video. In stark contrast, the term Business Technology acknowledges the convergence and interactions of these elements together. Where we came from When I was with InformationWeek in the 1990s, we wrote about data processing, management information systems and IT. But today, BT is a new view of technology; a 360-degree view, if you will, where technology is woven throughout the business operations, decisions and functions. The role of BT should be placed within the sequential context of people, process and technology. Meaning,

Simplicity of a Managed Service Solution

By out-tasking business technology responsibilities, you can avoid the need to manage equipment and add operations staff, freeing your in-house talent to focus on strategic projects. How would that work in practice? Here's a case in point. A residential Real Estate brokerage, located in Chicago, came to Geckotech as a new business looking to differentiate them in a highly competitive market. The owner was looking for something unique, a communication solution to launch his new business -- without worrying about how a phone system worked. And, he needed a system that would easily scale, as they added agents. The owner didn't want the distraction of managing hardware, but needed a high-tech solution for his mobile workforce and wanted to use technology as a competitive advantage -- as well as a way to recruit quality agents to the team. Geckotech proposed and implemented a best-fit out-tasked solution at their new office, which included a private T1 connection, Cisco IP phones a

Business Technology and the Changing Role of IT

Businesses of all sizes are facing unprecedented competitive and economic challenges as they attempt to satisfy their customers’ rapidly changing needs and support their employees’ rapidly changing work requirements. Globalization and eCommerce have dramatically changed the competitive landscape for companies of all sizes, including small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs). Escalating fuel costs and tightening credit markets have also severely impacted the business operations of companies. Companies must achieve greater customer intimacy in order to win and retain customer satisfaction and loyalty. Companies must also support increasingly dispersed and mobile workers in order to ensure employee productivity. These challenges demand new forms of communications and collaboration, along with greater reliability and reporting to meet rising regulatory and compliance requirements. These trends are also forcing companies to adopt new technologies and new methods of managing these technologies i

BTR Idea Exchange - View, Post, Vote

The Business Technology Roundtable (BTR) provides information and guidance to help you understand the available options, proceed through the buying cycle, and select a best-fit provider of managed services, hosting services and evolving cloud services. We also provide links to tools, such as a procurement checklist or buyer’s guide, and a build vs. buy calculator that can be used to help you build a business case for service deployment and adoption within your organization. We also seek to gauge which problems you encounter or solutions you seek -- ideas for new services and new online tools that are most important and most relevant. Visit the BTR Idea Exchange to participate in our open collaboration effort. This is your opportunity, by contributing your ideas, to tell service providers what you require from them. This is an open public list, and all service providers can view it. You can either submit an idea or vote on an idea that's already been submitted -- all you need is a

Intro to the Business Technology Roundtable

Today, the application of technology is an integral part of most businesses – in some shape or form. However, while many decision makers are now primarily concerned with using technology to pursue new business opportunities, and gaining business-related capabilities is their main objective, the vendors and suppliers that they encounter sometimes don't speak the same language. Matching buyer's business needs with technology vendor's offerings is sometimes referred to as the business/technology alignment chasm. Filling that void with substantive information, meaningful guidance, and compelling "how-to" storylines is the charter of the Business Technology Roundtable (BTR). We seek to shed light where there has been an apparent absence of editorial illumination. A business technologist -- perhaps a new term to some -- should be focused on driving business technology adoption, rather than purely the acquisition of new systems. They should also value delivering business